March 2012 Foreword

by Amina Hachemi

This first issue of the Asian EFL journal for 2012 touches upon a number of issues worthy of note in the field of English language teaching and learning. With article topics ranging from the incorporation of literature in the classroom to the effects of student attitudes on learning, this installment includes authors from a wide geographical area spanning Asia from Iran to Malaysia.
Integrating Input Enhancement and Processing Instruction in Promoting Acquisition of English Phrasal Verbs by Yueh-Tzu Chiang explores the effectiveness of input enhancement and processing instruction in assisting Chinese ESL students in learning English phrasal verbs, which are often considered difficult due to their irregular construction and multiple meanings. The author discusses a three-month study carried out on a sample of forty Chinese learners to compare the success of traditional teaching methods, such as memorisation and output-oriented drills, with Processing Instruction and Input Enhancement techniques in teaching phrasal verbs. The results demonstrated a considerable advantage on the part of the Processing Instruction group, leading to the conclusion that such teaching practices should be favoured with regards to phrasal verbs.
Next, Ahour Tourahour looks at the relationship between reading practices and writing in Cooperative and Individual Reading: The Effect on Writing Fluency and Accuracy. A group of three writing classes from the Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication at the Universiti Putra Malaysia was studied using two cause and effect prompts in two conditions, one on a similar topic to the reading exercise and the other different. The outcome of the test revealed that writing fluency and accuracy, as well as Mean T-Unit Length and Mean Error-Free T-Unit Length were better from the cooperative directed reading group in both conditions. The author concludes, therefore, that cooperative learning theory and the indirect model of reading for writing should be taken into consideration when discussing the links between reading and writing practices.
Modal Verbs for Politeness in Email Requests to Professors: The Case of Chinese EFL Learners by Wuhan Zhu discusses the under-addressed issue of English modal verb usage for politeness in the case of email correspondence by Chinese EFL students. The sample studied includes two groups – English majors and non-English majors in order to compare English fluency with linguistic variation. Through this study, the author exposes the various approaches of non-native speakers when speaking and draws conclusions on its impact on teaching in a non-native speaking environment.
In Reluctance to Write among Students in the Context of an Academic Writing Course in an Ethiopian University, Tessema Kedir investigates the willingness of university students in an academic writing course to write. This is assessed with the support of data collected from university students and instructors, focusing on the most common reluctance behaviours exhibited, and perceived reasons for this from students and teachers. The study discovered that while instructors believe this reluctance to be due to a deficiency in the students skills and participation, the students censured the inability of instructors to involve them in classroom activities. Fundamentally, however, both parties agree that student reluctance lies in experiences pre-dating their course. The author asserts that particular attention should be paid to classroom writing activities in order to engage both reluctant and non-reluctant students while implementing practices that create self-motivation and diligence.

The implications of learners beliefs about language learning on linguistic competence is discussed in Chinese EFL Learners‟ Beliefs by Shaofeng Li, with a detailed consideration of individual traits and of the degree of influence they have on language learning in the context of Chinese higher education. Using questionnaires, tests and interviews, a study was conducted on 142 EFL students. The outcome of a factor analysis on the resulting data demonstrated direct correlation between students confidence in their learning abilities and their linguistic proficiency. The interviews further established that aspects of the teaching environment as well as of Chinese tradition influence the attitude of learners towards core language teaching methods and their own motivational techniques.
Following this discussion of student beliefs, Characteristics and Transformation of Native English Speaker Teachers‟ Beliefs: A Study of U.S. English Teachers in China by Siping Liu and Jian Wang delves into native-English EFL teachers beliefs. Since teachers ideas concerning appropriate teaching techniques and how students learn are considered to have an effect on classroom interaction and students results, the author builds upon this theory by looking at the changes that occur in teachers beliefs while working in an EFL environment. A study of American native English speaking teachers at a Chinese university concludes that although they do not alter their teaching methods, the experience of an EFL classroom environment deepens their understanding of students learning process. It also emphasises the self-perception of native-English speaking teachers as authorities on English proficiency and teaching methods.
An exploration of vocabulary teaching in the Chinese EFL university classroom by Eunice Tang, To Teach More or More to Teach: Vocabulary-Based Instruction in the Chinese EFL Classroom examines the cultural and logistical reasons behind the prevalent
explicit vocabulary teaching methods in China. An analysis of oral practices in teaching planned and unplanned words using lesson recordings from different universities uncovered uniform teaching practices among all the teachers, which left very little opportunity for student participation. The emphasis was overwhelmingly placed on the quantity of words learnt rather than vocabulary assimilation and comprehension. An additional discovery was the lack of instructors teaching knowledge and understanding of student learning. An underlying concern is therefore raised regarding the development of curricula and textbooks and related research.
The final essay of this issue is Thematization in Romantic and Criminal Short Stories in English and Persian: Implications for Second Language Reading by Elnaz Ghaleasadi. With the discovery of the advantages of incorporating short story reading in the EFL classroom rather than merely treating isolated linguistic structures, the author discusses the relative efficacy of various thematic types and progression patterns in English and Persian criminal and romantic short stories. A study of a sample of ten short stories of each genre and language investigated the differences in textual organisation between the categories. The author concludes that, due to the many similarities between stories of the same genre, the use of short stories is a powerful technique for teaching reading. It is also indicated that a thematic approach to text analysis could prove to be very effective.
One of the major themes covered in this issue demonstrates a growing interest in the psychological aspects of the EFL classroom both among teachers and students and in the possible measures that could be used to address them. Needless to say, many of the ideas and experience put forward in all the present articles can be applied outside Asia and indeed, outside the EFL classroom. On behalf of all of the editors at Asian EFL Journal, we hope you find this particular edition both enlightening and informative.